I’ve been playing in the internoodles long enough to remember the original definition of troll. That was when you had a group, say Fluffy Bunny Chat, where everyone was chatting about Fluffy Bunnies 24/7. Then along came a new poster Mr. Foxx, who would start a chat like this: “A recent study done by Harvard medical researchers shows that exposure to Fluffy Bunnies causes schizophrenia in mice. The human study was aborted after 6 hours when 2 of the participants got into a violent altercation with the one of the researchers. She is hospitalized with a broken arm and a bruised kidney. Some people have begun a petition to ban Fluffy Bunnies and send it to the President.”
This of course would cause a huge flame war among the Fluffy Bunny chatters. People who had been previously cordial to each other would erupt in vicious tirades about whether the ban was justified or not, who Mr. Foxx actually was, should he be hunted down, should animals be used in studies, and on and on. People would get so upset they’d leave the group. Sometimes they’d return under a new name and resume arguing. Or they’d create a “sock puppet” name to agree with themselves. The group might flame out because people would begin arguing about everything else that came along next and it just wasn’t fun any longer. Mr. Foxx, of course, would have been long gone, probably moved on to a new group using a new name to wreak similar havoc.
Mr. Foxx was a consummate troll. He hit and ran. Most likely he checked in on his work, but he didn’t post again to contribute to the back and forth nitpickery and flaming. That was the original definition of an online troll. But it began to evolve. Soon, we started to call “troll” at anyone who hung out in a group and posted mostly grumpy, contrary things, either original posts or replies, even though we could have simply called them a grouch, an irritant, or an asshole, any of which would have been more accurate, since they didn’t cause flamewars or destroy the group.
I think what we were getting at though is the “troll” was “trolling” for responses to his (or her) supposedly contrary stance on an issue. If everyone in the group agreed that the sky was blue, the troll was apt to say, nah, it’s slate. Cuz it’s always fun to be the special lil snowflake. I’m not like everyone else, so there! He’d be more likely to get a reply than someone who agreed with the majority. Oh, look at you, attention whore! That accusation became ridiculous in a group full of writers, since we all were obviously wanting some sort of attention for our writing or else why the hell were we writing in public in the first place? As far as groups of non-writers, I think it still stands. If you’re posting/commenting in public and don’t want any attention… then why are you doing that? Perhaps a wee bit of self-examination is in order.
However. The new breed of troll is nothing like those harmless nuisances (n.b. I have on occasion played the harmless nuisance type of troll myself). They don’t pop on a group with a silly fake essay in hopes of inciting arguments among the pearl-clutchers. They don’t act like grouchy contrarians among friends to feel special. No. They deliberately and precisely set out to hurt people, usually women, who have already been victimized. And of course they are overwhelmingly male. Here is an interview with a few of these despicable creatures. And a quote about why they like to go after women:
“Well yeah it is because women are generally weaker,” Mark says, “they are more easily offended and easier to anger and stuff like that.”
Mark excuses his actions by blaming women for being victims in the first place. He says these aren’t “random people” because they’ve already shown weakness. So, he’s like an internet lion clearing the place of sick gazelles, yah? He’s the epitome of what we used to call the no-life loser posting from his mommy’s basement. I mean really. Does he not have anything better to do than kick people who are already down?
Professor Del Paulhus from the University of British Columbia was one of the authors of a study about people like Mark. It found that “internet trolling correlates strongly with the so-called dark tetrad of personality traits: psychopathy, Machiavellianism, narcissism and sadism.” Except that people like Mark are ultimately cowards; they would never say boo to anyone in person. Otherwise they would already be out there insulting people in public, not spending all their free time trolling for online victims, yet staying safe behind their screens.
Also, this article is interesting because of the leftwinger interviewed. Craig says he trolls center-left people online, not righties. And this will be no surprise to those of us who are in the center-left ~ we’ve experienced for a long time the vitriol of the far left online. They target us for their frothy rants, believing us to be soft and easy, while they leave the right alone, because they’re out of reach. Sorry, I’m not a piece of taffy you call pull over to your loonytoon fringe in either direction. And especially not if you’re being a complete asshole about it. Let’s see that’s worked now, um… never. But why not try again for the billionth time?
What do all these trolls have in common though, even the worst ones, such as Mark? They will die from lack of response. “Don’t feed the trolls!” That used to be a common saying in newsgroup “netiquette,” not that many paid attention to it. But it was true then and it is true now. You can’t stop someone from posting a nasty, hurtful reply. You can ban some keywords, swear words, racial epithets, but people will find a way around all that. You can’t filter for sadists. They’ll get through at least once and probably more often, if they’re they least bit clever, and most are. You don’t have to use bad language to be cruel. In fact, you’re more effective if you avoid it, since using swear words makes you sound emotional, while a true sadist should sound coldly controlled at all times.
I have never responded to trolls here at Light Motifs. I don’t have to ~ they immediately get shitcanned and I ban their IP. If they show up with a new IP, I ban that one too. First responses always go to moderation, so I don’t have to worry about someone new getting into a flamewar with my friends before I have a chance to deal with it. If for some odd reason, an approved commenter begins to go rogue, I’ll deal with that pretty quickly and ban them if I have to. It’s only happened a few times though. This isn’t YOUR free speech zone. Get your own blarg. That said, I have gotten into it with “trolls” in other venues. I try not to these days though, since it’s such a waste of energy. If possible, I block them as soon as I realize what I’m dealing with (even if I see them acting up with a friend). I highly recommend blocking anyone who annoys you on Facebook and elsewhere. Why waste your time interacting with them? Pointless.
Anyway. Here’s Lindy West on why she occasionally “feeds the trolls.” I like what she says, even if we disagree on some things, and her book sounds interesting. Truth is, I’m not going to buy it, not going to pay full price (even full Kindle price), because I think that’s rather outrageous. I’ll wait for a used version. I’m much more budget-conscious these days. Ffs, barely anyone bought my books, even at their super-low prices, so pffft.